AUSTIN, Texas - On Tuesday, Governor Greg Abbott ordered stricter social distancing guidelines throughout the state.
The order, which takes effect Thursday, requires people to stay home unless they are conducting essential business or essential activity. It is similar to stay home orders enacted in multiple other counties already. However, the governor is not calling this a “stay home” or “shelter in place” order because he wants to be clear that people can still visit grocery stores or go outside and exercise, as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.
“By staying home, by reducing personal interactions, you are saving lives and you are improving the health of people across our entire state,” said Abbott.
Texans will need to follow strict social distancing guidelines for the next 30 days to help stop the spread of COVID-19, according to the governor. Anyone conducting business or activities not deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security’s guidelines is ordered to stay home.
“Texans are expected to limit personal interactions that can lead to the spread of COVID-19, while also still having the freedom to conduct daily activities such as going to the grocery store, so long as you are following the presidential standard of good distance practices,” Abbott said.
The governor said other services may be added to the list with the approval of the Texas Division of Emergency Management.
This latest order will keep all schools in the state closed through May 4, though they may still continue online classes. Although, it does exempt religious services as long as they are still abiding by social distancing guidelines.
“The efforts of Texans across the entire state have slowed the spread of the coronavirus, but, as the president has made clear, we are not yet done with our response,” said Abbott.
Of the almost 43,000 Texans who have been tested for coronavirus so far, the governor said less than ten percent tested positive. Of those who tested positive, about 11 percent needed hospitalization, using about 2.4 percent of the available hospital beds designated to treat coronavirus patients in the state.
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“With a heavy heart, I share with you that we have now lost 41 Texans to fatality connected with COVID-19,” Abbott said.
By mandating stricter guidelines statewide, the governor hopes to lessen the surge of COVID-19 patients, conserving hospital beds, respirators and personal protection equipment for those who will need it.
“There’s no secret that the supply chain is taking quite a shock, but when the governor’s been talking to hospital CEOs, they’re on a rationing program right now so that they don’t completely run out,” said Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd.
“If we do the things being asked of us, we are not going to have to have a civic center turned into a hospital in Texas,” said House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.
While social distancing may be uncomfortable and inconvenient, Bonnen said, overall, the sacrifices we need to make right now are not major.
“Seniors in high school in World War II, they were going to war in a foreign land. We’re just asking you to stay home. We’re asking you to keep your distance from each other and then we’ll get through this,” said Bonnen.
“Together we will persevere through this for another month. Together we are going to heal our state,” Abbott said.
Anyone found in violation of the governor’s latest order can be fined up to $1,000 or sentenced to up to 180 days in jail. They can also be subject to a quarantine order by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
For the full list of essential services visit the TDEM website.
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